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Zubiri removed as Senate chief for pursuing PDEA leaks probe

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

MANILA  — Take it from the horse’s mouth. Migz Zubiri was unseated as Senate president because he allowed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) leaks probe —  seeking to determine if now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr was a drug user during his time as senator – to continue.

Speaking in the vernacular, the deposed Senate president said: “The Marcos camp was mad at me, the loyalists, because I allowed the hearings to continue for two weeks.”

Zubiri said he was merely protecting the Senate as an institution and because the upper chamber of the bicameral Congress “believes in the committee system.”

Never did he tell Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa to end his hearings, said Zubiri, only saying that the former should be “cautious and make sure it’s evidence-based.”

For his part, Senator JV Ejercito told local media that there was “no reason” to remove Zubiri, but the continued PDEA leaks hearings were the final nail on his political coffin as Malacanang had made it clear that the president was unhappy with the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs proceeding.

Committee head Dela Rosa was also under “immense pressure from external forces…to have a change of heart,” said Ejercito.

The immense pressure could explain the actions of Dela Rosa, who despite being a close ally of Zubiri, admitted that he had been “forced” to support the move calling for the Senate president to resign last week because the camp seeking his ouster “already had the numbers.”

Dela Rosa was in tears when the Senate coup was announced, but Zubiri still said he felt betrayed as he had backed the former PNP chief’s continued hearings to determine the veracity of the PDEA report linking Marcos along with actress Maricel Soriano to the use of illegal drugs.

But because he had voted for now Senate President Chiz Escudero, Dela Rosa may be allowed to keep his committee chairmanship.

He is, however, no longer considered part of the Zubiri camp, which late last week announced that the seven senators who voted against his removal would form a bloc, either as independents or even as part of the minority.

Should they ally themselves with the two-member minority, there will be nine senators facing off against the 15 senators who voted to remove Zubiri.

Ejercito said a decision would be made soon after the situation in the Senate had cooled down.

It is worth noting that Ejercito’s half brother, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, denied that the PDEA leaks probe was the reason for Zubiri’s ouster. Estrada assumed the post of Senate president pro tempore as a result of the change in leadership.

As of press time, it was not clear if Escudero would allow the PDEA leaks hearings to continue.

A known ally and loyalist to President Marcos, one of Escudero’s earliest statements upon assumption of the Senate presidency was to agree that most senators were not in favor of charter change, which analysts said was a second reason for Zubiri’s removal.

Malacanang has been insisting on changing certain economic provisions of the charter, which would allow foreigners to own real property in the country.

Critics, however, suspect that the administration or its supporters have a hidden agenda, which is to change the political provisions, allowing no term limits or even possibly changing to a federal form of government.

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